White sage is one of the most important plants



White sage is one of the most important plants used within the Tongva culture. While it is generally well known that various Native American cultures have spiritual uses for sage, the Tongva specifically consider white sage a "prayer plant." Sage provides many strictly medicinal uses as well. However, many of the uses of sage are considered to be both medicinal and spiritual simultaneously. These uses reflect the central role the plant occupies within Tongva culture.


As a medicine, the Tongva use white sage as a general cleanser or tonic. For bronchial problems, the Tongva make a mild tea from the leaves. The leaves may also be smoked to treat colds. The leaves can be applied to the body as hair wash, hair dye, hair straightener, and are also rubbed onto the body as a deodorizer. For eye inflammations or to cleanse the eye, the Tongva grind one seed for use on both eyes. Also, after Tongva women have given birth, to drink an infusion of white sage roots promotes overall healing. Finally, white sage is used to cleanse the blood from a poison oak infectionó the Tongva drink a decoction made of two leaves per "cup" of water to rid the bloodstream of the poison.


The Tongva also grind the seeds of white sage and eat them in porridge and bread. In fact, sage seeds can be used to thicken flour. The leaves themselves are also eaten, as well as the tender stems of the plant.


Other non-medicinal uses of white sage within Tongva culture reflect how the plant can simultaneously be defined as both medicinal and spiritual in its use. The Tongva gather bundles of white sage, dry them, and use them for "purification" ceremonies, spiritual cleansing, "smudging," blessing ceremonies, and to focus on spiritual or serious matters concerning both the individual and the community. They also smoke the leaves dried, together with native tobacco. They hang bundles of white sage leaves in the sweat house, and the same bundles are used for "smudging" clothes, houses, or instruments.


Additionally, white sage disperses bad luck, for example if a menstruating woman accidentally touches the equipment that a man uses to hunt with. Finally, the Tongva apply white sage to the body before hunting in order to hide "human" smells that might ward off the hunted animals.


According to Tongva legend, white sage must be respected and venerated when found: "the one laying down are very old, we call it grandmothers and we are very respectful of themó when we find one we give thanks.". Canada


Mario G. Maldonado, M.D..